The Cable Show, the annual conference sponsored by The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center this week. That venue is attached to Staples Center, which was a fascinating place on Wednesday: The convention day ended as fans gathered for a Los Angeles Clippers playoff game the day after owner Donald Sterling was banned for life due to his racist comments.
It was not hard to tell the cable geeks from the basketball freaks. The situation would have been far more combustible if Sterling hadn’t been banned.
I found a good deal of news and commentary both inside and outside of Los Angeles this week. Here are some highlights:
We’re Number 43! We’re Number 43!
Point Topic took an interesting look at worldwide broadband access prices. The study, which covered 90 countries, was normalized in such a way that the comparisons provided an apples-to-apples look at how far consumers’ bucks go in each country.
The firm found that during the first quarter, the average bandwidth speed was 55 Megabits per second (Mbps) and the average monthly price was $76.61. The lowest costs were in France, Romania and Japan and the highest in Bolivia and Peru.
The United States didn’t fare particularly well:
The U.S. ranked 43rd of the 90 countries surveyed in Point Topic’s market research and analysis, ranking just behind Colombia and one place ahead of Greece. Monthly U.S. broadband subscription rates did fall below the global average of $76.61, however. Access to actual U.S. average broadband pricing data requires a subscription to Point Topic, but it’s estimated to be in the $60 – $65 price range.
Cox: We’re Moving to 1 Gig Across Our Footprint
The wireless industry moved inexorable from 3G to 4G LTE in increments, first offering it in small rollouts and then across entire footprints. It is now the standard platform. The wired industry, which on the corporate level, of course, features some of the same players, is reprising that incremental approach in moving to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) as its standard broadband delivery platform.
It’s not there yet, though. The latest sign that momentum is building is that Cox Communications says it will offer services at that speed to all of its residential customers. Multichannel News reports that CEO Pat Esser said that full residential 1Gbps service has always been the plan. The upgrades will begin within a few weeks, though other details are scarce.
It’s likely that the early customers will get the service over fiber networks because version 3.1 of the Data over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS 3.1), industry’s main 1Gbps platform, won’t be ready for mass deployment until the second half of next year.
Sprint’s HD Voice Getting Louder
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said that the carrier’s HD Voice now is available in 100 markets. Dan Jones at Light Reading points out that Sprint’s HD Voice initiative has been delayed in the past, but that Hesse’s comments track with what he said in March. Jones adds that HD Voice can be defined by spreading the audio over seven octaves as opposed to the four octaves that currently are used by smartphone audio. HD Voice also cuts out a lot of the background noise.
Tablets Hit a Bump in the Road
The unfettered growth of the tablet industry is ending. IDC released first quarter results that show a sequential quarterly decline and slower growth for the category, which in the firm’s definition includes “2-in-1” devices. IDC says vendors shipped 50.4 million devices during the first quarter, a decline of 35.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013. Quarterly growth was a relatively modest 3.9 percent compared to the year-ago quarter.
A quote in the press release from Tom Mainelli, IDC’s program vice president for devices and displays, said that factors in the slowdown included the emergence of large-screen phones and that consumers are waiting longer than before to replace their devices.
The order of the top five vendors, Apple, Samsung, ASUS, Lenovo and Amazon.com, remained the same. The biggest change in market share was Apple, which slid from 40.2 percent during the first quarter of 2013 to 32.5 percent this year.
Google Autonomous Autos Gaining Momentum
And, finally, comes a story about where Google is going with (or in) its self-driving automobiles. The jumping off point of Junko Yoshida’s EE Times story is an embedded video in a blog post by Chris Urmson, who is the director of Google’s Self-Driving Car project.
According to Yoshida, observers had previously thought that autonomous automobiles would be used only on freeways. The video shows a Google Car tooling around Mountain View, Calif. The implication clearly is that Google is not limiting itself, although driving around Mountain View is not the same as doing so in New York City or Mumbai.
Google’s approach of using a self-contained automobile differs from other self-driving techniques that rely on communications with information sources in the outside world and with other vehicles.